Daniels Park and the Buffalo Herd

Marty McFly didn’t go back to the future to visit Douglas County Colorado in 1985… but if he had he would have likely found himself completely and utterly alone in the beautiful Colorado front range prairie landscape. Back in the day I visited this place every weekend… it was our winter training course for the Leadville Trail 100 race. My running bud and I would leave my house near Arapahoe Road, run down Colorado Blvd past County Line Road and into the prairie wilderness. Somewhere along the line Colorado Blvd. became Daniels Park Road, but there were no signs on that rugged and mostly deserted dirt road. There was nothing out there back then, just the road and the rolling Douglas County terrain. The beautiful rustic stone picnic shelter was positioned perfectly at the summit of Daniels Park Road and made a welcome rest stop about halfway into the long weekend run. It stood alone in those days, forgotten and forsaken at the edge of one of the most amazing views of the Front Range imaginable. There were no fences, no discernible trails and no sign of civilization other than the shelter and a couple of weathered picnic tables. Not too long after those winter runs I moved away from Littleton and never visited Daniels Park again.

Daniels Park, Douglas County, Colorado

Daniels Park actually has quite a history, the land donated by Denver high society member Florence F. Martin with the “The first 37.99 acres were given in 1920, and the second 962.76 acres given in 1937. Today there are still traces of Martinโ€™s house and flower gardens. Ranch buildings remain on the land and demonstrate the architecture of a working 1920s ranch.”, according to the Castle Pines Connection website. Before 1864 Daniels Park Road was a major stagecoach artery between Denver and Pueblo and according to the Connection it is also the place where in 1868 Kit Carson made his final campfire before succumbing to poor health on his way home. Please read the article, it is quite interesting!

In 2007 Denver Mountain Parks and Douglas County teamed up to create the Daniels Park Master Plan to restore the park. Since then the park has become a popular destination for Denver and Douglas County area hikers, photographers, drone pilots and picnic goers. According to dayhikesneardenver.com miles of trails have been developed, overlooks created, restrooms added and plenty of parking provided.

This winter a picture of a beautiful bison rolled through my facebook feed and upon

Colorado Bison Herd

reading the post I discovered that a bison herd has been added to an enclosed area on the other side of Daniels Park Road and I was reminded of the good memories there. I vowed to return as soon as possible to see the improvements and the bison, and today turned out to be the day that all the factors converged… So early this morning, off the big dog and I went.

I chose to take Highway 67 all the way to Sedalia, through Woodland Park along the headwaters of the Platte River, through Douglas County and finally to Sedalia. From there I turned right along our old training run route and then left or north onto Daniels Park Road. It certainly was not the rough washboard dirt road of old though, now paved and lined with million dollar country mansions. About 5 miles north of there I encountered branch in the road indicating that a turn was required to stay on the route and thus avoiding Castle Pines. How you would get there from the north now is a mystery to me. With the addition of Castle Pines and Highlands Ranch both of which were just an idea back in the day, all the roads have been rerouted and renamed. What was once a straight shot down Colorado Blvd has now morphed into maze of bewildering new pavement.

Daniels Park Picnic Shelter

Eventually the old picnic shelter came into sight, now surrounded by a massive fenced elaborate parking lot which was not that easy to navigate! Back in the day the shelter stood alone, beside the dirt road on a humble unmarked dirt area that passed for a parking lot. Now there are fences everywhere, you can’t go down the ridge at all and there are manicured paths wide enough to drive a truck on that lead you all along the ridge. Since there was no way to go down into the valley below I just snapped a couple of shots and got back in the truck in search of the bison. I imagine it was about a mile up the road to the north when I finally spotted the huge beasts grazing in a fenced field.

Colorado Bison Herd

It was looking like I wasn’t going to get much photography done with the six foot wire fence in the way but as it turns out the links are far enough apart to squeeze the big 100-400 into and as long as the animals were pretty much straight ahead I was able to capture some images. Unfortunately the best view with the most animals and scenery required about a 45 degree angle today so just as I was about to give up I remembered my swivel viewing screen! I could hold the camera over the fence and look into the view finder! So I pushed the button, the mirror snapped up and out of the way and I was looking over the fence through my beautiful viewfinder! First time in four years I have ever actually used one of the most popular features of this camera model! Fortunately not too long ago I thought I was going to use that feature for something so I got out the manual and researched how to do it. Worked like a charm and saved the day!

Colorado Bison Herd

Well anyway, it was a great and memorable day, wonderful to visit the place that was such a big part of my life so long ago. I would urge photographers and hikers to visit Daniels Park in any season. The view stretches from probably Longs Peak to Pikes Peak and would be an awesome place to catch a sunset! The animals are also an awesome thing to behold… and if you get too close to the fence you might also hear the mighty huff of one of these Giants of the Plains which will quickly command your respect… and distance!

As always, these images and more are available on my website as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, stretched canvas, traditional framing and matting and also as a myriad of cool gift, tech and household items with an image by #swkrullimaging!

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Sangre de Cristo Mountains Up Close

I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time… to go see the Sangre de Cristo Range of Colorado up close. I can see them from my favorite vantage points on my hiking trails around home, but I have never actually seen them up close. I tried once but the road on which I turned was in a valley and I didn’t really get to see much except foothills.

Arkansas River by S.W. Krull Imaging

I almost went up to Waterton Canyon to look for bighorn sheep today, but I was tired and a six mile hike up the dirt road didn’t seem to be in my best interests, so the Sangres it was! Drove down High Park Drive from Cripple Creek over to Highway 9 and then down to 50 where me and the big dog proceeded west along the Arkansas River. I had to make one stop on one of the many pull outs along the river so Big Dog could stretch his legs. Didn’t get the big camera out there, but I did get a nice shot of the river with my phone camera ๐Ÿ™‚

Finally we arrived at Highway 69 where we turned south and it was just a few miles up a

Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range of Colorado

canyonย  before the big mountains came into view. I took my first opportunity to pull over and get some shots because the light was good, but rapidly changing. I brought along both of my zoom lenses, the 70-200 and the 100-400 and it turns out they both came in handy. My polarizer only fits on the 70-200 and there were a few times when the sun was bright and from the side where that filter came in handy! Moments of sunlight and longer periods of overcast skies were a challenge today but by the time I got to Westcliffe I was satisfied that I had captured what I came for.

Westcliffe is a quaint little mountain town way out in the boondocks in southern Colorado. It took but a few minutes to cover the entire town in both directions as I looked hopefully for a micro brewery. There were none to be found and my phone didn’t have a signal there so that a search could be performed so I just decided to head on back. There was a BBQ place there that looked intriguing but I wasn’t that hungry yet and there were some antique stores and art galleries and a coffee shop that also caught my eye! Sometime when I can get an earlier start I’ll have to go back and check it out ๐Ÿ™‚

Beautiful Herd of Mule Deer

On the trip back I was keeping a close watch on the hillsides hoping for a deer or elk sighting and just when I thought I was going to be disappointed, I encountered a herd of mule deer right along the side of the road! I snapped a few out the truck window as the herd moved up the mountainside. This bunch was so cute, all of them looking at me, especially the three all perfectly lined up in the middle of the frame! Eventually they had moved far enough away that I was able to get out of the truck without scaring them off and captured a few images while they looked on from this neat looking rocky knoll (below center). Some sunlight would have been nice for these pictures but by this time the sky was pretty well overcast. Oh well, it was still fun to see them.

All in all I collected about 110 images for the day so I have a lot of processing to do! As always, these images and more are available as wall art and gift items on my website. Please check back in often as I will be displaying many more!

Beautiful Herd of Mule Deer

A Day Off and Random Musings

Checked Accuweather when I awoke this morning… -11f with a real feel of -35f was the report. A quick trip outdoors for Big Dog’s morning duties also revealed another inch or so of fresh powder. Off in the distance I could hear the sound of snowplows out cleaning up the mess. Forgot to bring in the trash can from yesterday, finally found it a block away in a snowbank, I thought I could hear the wind howling last night through the fog of sleep.

Considering all that and also how dang tired I am from all the physical activity these days, the decision was made… a day off. Well almost off, Big Dog still needed his morning walk down the street to the open space to finish all his morning duties. My instinct was to grab the camera but I didn’t feel like it and off we went. Well the Sangre de Cristo Range was on fire from the sunrise on the new storm clouds heading this way and I was just sick… I knew by the time I got home and back with the camera the show would all be over. Oh well, I captured some the other day that were probably about the same and just as good.

Herd of Deer on a Winter MorningFortunately I did get out yesterday for some snowshoeing and shooting. Thought our hike was going to come up dry, but as we started our descent I saw three bucks headed the other way in a hurry, so fast in fact that I almost missed them! I didn’t have my camera on the right focus selection and I couldn’t bet my snowshoes turned around fast enough to catch them all, but I finally did get composed for one shot of the last buck making his way through the deep snow :) I wasn’t satisfied with the pictures from on our hike so we headed up Highway 67 to see if the bighorns might be out. Unfortunately they weren’t so I headed for home to start adding up the books so I can do my taxes. But as I neared my home I thought, “I wonder if I should drive up Teller 1 to look for the elk?”. Naa… probably won’t see any, it will be a wasted trip.

Used to be my only criteria for hopping in the truck and going somewhere was whether

Storm Clouds on Pikes Peak

or not I wanted to go. Now there is always this voice in the back of my mind haunting me… asking, will it be profitable? Back in the day in school they made us study the Great Depression and one thing about it has always stuck in my mind… the people that went through that terrible time were changed forever, their whole way of thinking about the future permanently scarred. I didn’t really understand that then, but now after the Great Recession I get it. I was a software engineer in the aerospace industry at the time and we had seen many ups and downs. I had somehow managed to survive all the down times but I had plenty of friends who didn’t, but they all found other jobs some in completely different fields. And with contracts constantly won and lost we all knew that one day the axe would fall for the final time and we would all have to find something else to do.

Herd of Deer on a Winter Morning

There were plenty of jobs that I thought I would like, the camera stores for example,ย  we had a brand new Circuit City and they had techies there…ย  I loved book stores, maybe that would be a fun place to be. Our mobile disc jockey service had always done well and I was still picking up some wedding photography, perhaps more if I put my mind to it. Well that was until the Great Recession. Suddenly it was all gone… our brand new Circuit City went out of business, the book stores that I loved closed their doors, the computer stores were all boarded up, and 50 percent of Denver’s camera stores bit the dust. Every backup plan gone in an instant it seemed like. I still remember my wife asking me, “So what’s Plan B?”, my reply, “there is no Plan B.”. I still don’t know how we survived it, one day at a time, one miracle at a time I guess.

But like the survivors of the Great Depression, my thinking is changed, my confidence in the future diminished. So I guess that is why the usage of each dollar is prefaced with the question, “Is this going to be profitable, or is there a more thrifty option?”. So I almost didn’t go yesterday, the voice in the back of my mind was saying, “There aren’t going to be any elk.”.ย  But I decided there was enough of a chance that it would be worth such a small effort. Maybe 30 miles of driving for a good payoff?

Herd of Deer on a Winter Morning

Well as it turns out I didn’t see any elk, but I did see these deer out of the corner of my eye. Had to turn around and drive back to get the shots and I thought the freezing wind was going to blow me into the next county! But it was well worth the effort, the picture of the doe with the two bucks is one of my favorite of all time so I’m glad I made the trip ๐Ÿ™‚ And maybe that is a lesson to be learned about taking chances. Those terrible years are behind us now, maybe it is time for a new mindset. Maybe I don’t want to be like the survivors of the Great Depression, maybe it’s time to leave fear and despair behind and take on a mindset of optimism and hope and winning again!

As always these images and more are available on my website for purchase as wall art on glossy metal or acrylic sheets, canvas, traditional framing and matting and tons of cool household, tech, and gift items!

Phantom Canyon

Funny the twists and turns my days make… I had fully planned to take Big Dog for a short hike followed by a road trip up Highway 67 to see if the bighorns were still there this morning. However on my way through Victor I glanced down towards the south and thought, “Hey, it looks like the trees are changing down there too! I wonder what the road is like?”. I’ve been wanting to explore Phantom Canyon Road along the Gold Belt Tour series of day trips since the day I first saw it on the map! Surprisingly the road is listed on the “Dangerous Roads” website, but I didn’t think it was that bad… although it could be inย  bad weather! So… I turned the old Dodge south and headed down the dirt road toward the canyon. After a couple of miles I was thinking it really wasn’t too bad. The last time I even attempted that route, the ice and snow of the Colorado winter had made a complete mess of it. Now it was a little rough but not a brain rattling washboard like Rampart Range Road the other day… So I just kept going ๐Ÿ™‚

According to my brief study of the road’s history, the road actually began as a narrow gauge railroad bed providing access to the gold fields of Cripple Creek and Victor. The name of the canyon is also steeped in history as well according to the website Colorado.com, which attributes to a ghostly inmate who was executed at the Colorado State Penitentiary in the 1880’s. I saw no ghosts on my trek through the haunted canyon ๐Ÿ™‚

Entrance to Phantom Canyon

The northern part of the canyon really isn’t too much of a canyon. Just a nice dirt mountain road past a lot of golden aspen leaves with a nice view of the Sangre de Cristo range in the background. Stopped a few times for pictures of the mountains and even the road winding it’s way back into the trees while making my way ever further south. Soon I was way too far down the 30 mile road to consider turning back and I’m glad I didn’t! The canyon is magnificent, beautiful high walls along the sides between really pretty aspen groves and meadows.

There are a couple of places where the road gets slightly dicey, pieces of it somewhat Phantom Canyon Drive in Autumnwashed out and other places are quite narrow due to rock walls on both sides. No big deal today, but I could see where it would be a pain in the butt on a busy weekend day, especially during leaf season. It is possible somebody would have to back up if two cars met in just the wrong place. There were even a couple of one lane tunnels through the rock that I tried to get shots of with my phone but the bright light at the other end of the tunnel coupled with the dark canyon turned out to be an unrecognizable photographic disaster! Oh well… And there was a very cool old wooden bridge that I really liked but was on it before I realized it and so I didn’t get a shot of that either. Come to think of it, a canyon in general is quite difficult to get pictures of. The high walls look very impressive to the three dimensional capabilities of the human eye, but not so much to a two dimensional camera view. So mostly I just cruised along in second gear, enjoying the tight turns, the dense forest, cool rock formations and high cliffs along the sides.

Phantom Canyon Wall

I did get one shot of the road behind along the canyon wall with my phone camera, but as far as capturing the canyon as I saw it with my eyes, it was pretty much a photographic bust. Even the shot I did get is much less impressive than the view that my mind was enjoying! You can kind of make out the path along the cliff that the road is taking but it seemed much steeper when I was driving! I would have liked to have stopped and gotten out and spent a little time in the dense forest, but didn’t have all day… I mainly just wanted to drive the road so I could check the bucket list box in the sky ๐Ÿ™‚ Actually I’m much more of a high peaks person than I am a canyon person anyway… I like to get up where I can see! I was also surprised that I didn’t see any wildlife at all on the entire trip… I don’t know maybe deer and elk aren’t big fans of canyons either?

I have to confess, by the time I was about two thirds of the way through, I was just wishing that I was all the way through. Finally with about five miles remaining, the road widened out and the bumps relented allowing me to finish quickly in the 30-40 mph range, followed by some black top road where full speed was possible and I was in Canyon City in no time.

Pondered going on through to Salida to see the Sangres, but as I thought about that I realized I had actually been to Salida before and don’t really remember the Sangres being all that impressive from right beside them. So I opted for the Highway 9 and High Park Drive turnoff for a quick trip back to Cripple Creek. I had read somewhere that there are supposed to be great views of the Sangre range from High Park but I didn’t see it. I’ll go visit the Sangre de Cristo range when that is all that I have planned for the day. Maybe in the winter when the peaks have snow and aren’t just big brown rocks!

These pictures and more are now for sale on my website as wall art, including glossy metal and acrylic sheets, wrapped canvas and traditional framing and matting. You can also purchase a good variety of cool household items and gift items such as phone chargers and hard cases, t-shirts, beach and yoga mats, shower curtains, greeting cards and much more!

The Detour

Had to make a second trip to the city to complete the transaction to acquire my new glasses. For some reason, even though my lenses were in stock the lab was not able to get the specs ready until today. Since they won’t mail to a P.O. Box and Cripple Creek doesn’t deliver mail there was no choice but to make a second trip all the way back down to the city. Pretty sure the Russians had something to do with this inconvenience ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

WildernessWell on the way down I noticed traffic backing up from halfway down Ute Pass all the way to the 31st Street, grrrrr…. So I decided I was not going to come back up that way but there are only two other choices, go almost to Denver or go through Canon City. I’ve never taken the High Drive route from Cripple to Canon, so I thought, “What the heck, today is the day!”. Only problem was that it was close to 100 degrees in Canon and I’m used to like maybe 65.

Can’t say I was impressed with Canon City… just a plain ordinary ugly town that seemed to go on forever. I did find the turnoff to Phantom Canyon which I almost took but reminded myself that my mission was to map out the paved road along the Sangre in hopes of a future photo trip. Phantom Canyon is one that I want to try from the Victor end and will most likely not take all the way to Canon City. Well anyway, I was expecting to see a turnoff to High Drive close to Canon City but never did and finally arrived at the Highway 9 turnoff near the Royal Gorge.ย  I was pretty sure that the next stop on Highway 50 was going to be Salida so I figured I’d better get while the getting was good. Much to my surprise though, after a few miles I did finally encounter the High Drive / Gold Belt Tour road back to Cripple.

Once again, can’t say I was too impressed. Just a lot of seriously sun baked hills and some pine trees along with a lot of scrub oak and a few aspen trees. Might be nice in the fall but I saw nothing worth stopping to get out the camera for.

Finally home with my new glasses which I am completely not used to… It’s been two years since a case of soup at Walmart finished my other ones off and these are making hills where there are no hills… I vaguely remember going through something like this when I got glasses for the first time and the girl assured me that my brain would compensate. I’m assuming that the same will be true this time. All in all I would have to say that this was a good day, got to try out a new road and avoided a whole lot of stop and go traffic in Ute Pass ๐Ÿ™‚

First Snow

It was a beautiful crisp morning… the hint of fall definitely in the air here at almost 9,000 feet high in the Rocky Mountains. After a long week of drudgery and stress I knew I was in need of a road trip and the puppies needed their hike so I decided to take care of both in the same trip! I love taking the doggies to Little Grouse Mountain near Victor, beautiful scenery and almost zero chance of coming into contact with another person or dog up there, and the doggies love it too. Thought of going to church but when I’m stressed out, being around a bunch of married people and feeling alone is even more stressful. If I’m going to feel alone I’d rather just be alone, and the solitude of the mountains there is perfect therapy… Just me, the doggies and the amazing cool mountain breeze blowing in the pines.

Spring Water.jpgNoticed three empty drinking water jugs in the backseat and I have always wanted to stop at the spring for water. Almost at the split in the highway to Victor or Cripple Creek there is a big tank to catch the spring water coming out of the ground. A rubber tube funnels the water into the tank and anyone can fill water jugs from the spout for free. Animals, including elk, deer, and all sorts of big critters can also benefit from the big tank, and of course there is water spilling from the constant flow onto the ground for the little ones. Got my three jugs filled and headed on into Bronco Billy’s for some 50 cent biscuits and gravy.

stormy Collegiate PeaksThen me and the doggies were off to Little Grouse Mountain for a hike to the spectacular vista of the Sangre De Cristo and Collegiate Peak mountain ranges. Storm clouds were building over the Collegiate Peaks and a heavy haze made the Sangre Peaks almost invisible against the cloudy sky, not worth stopping for pictures but the billowing clouds off to the west were kind of neat. I felt this one looked much more dramatic in black and white, the elimination of color seems to have cut through the haze better. By the time we got back to the bottom the doggies were satisfied and ready for a nap.

Went in to Cripple to the Double Eagle and made some nickel bets, long enough to get a Untitled-1.jpgcouple of free brews to wet my parched whistle before heading back over the pass to Woodland. As I cruised through Gillette Flats I thought I could make out some snow up high on Pikes Peak through the storm clouds… the first sign that the fleeting summer in the high country is nearing an end. Figured I’d take a better look when I got to Woodland with it’s good views of the north face. Sure enough, from the excellent vantage point in Woodland it was apparent that the first snow of the year had fallen down to about 11,000 feet on the peak. But when I went to my usual vantage point the best view of the snow wasn’t visible so I took a swing up Paradise and on up into Paradise Pines for a better view which paid off… it was the perfect spot. The north face of the big peak shows a little dusting but the most snow can be seen on the little peak, which might be Cheyenne Mountain, towards the middle left of the frame.

Pair of Buck Mule DeerThen on my way down I could not believe my good fortune… two beautiful buck mule deer grazing in a meadow of wildflowers. Once again, extremely happy I had set my camera up for back button focus. For some reason once the bucks noticed me they took quite a few steps towards me, so I just held the button down which activates AI Servo focus (continuous) mode as long as I hold the button.ย  Normally a camera is set to one shot mode which activates when the shutter button is depressed. Then what happens is only the first shot is in focus and the subject becomes blurry as it moves closer to the camera. As a result I got quite a good bounty of the two deer in the beautiful meadow. What a way to finish a great day in the mountains ๐Ÿ™‚

These pictures and more from the day are available on my website as wall prints on glossy metal and acrylic sheets, canvas, or matted and framed with your choice of frame. Gift items including coffee mugs, t-shirts, greeting cards, pillows, towels and other handy household items are also available. Commercial stock versions can be purchased from the image licensing portal of my website.

Steve Krull is a prolific sports and nature photographer selling prints and stock images online as S.W. Krull Imaging at various sites and agencies. Click this link to view all the products and services offered by Steve Krull and S. W. Krull Imaging. Additional services include, wedding photography, portraiture and model portfolios, and event photography. Additional products include fine art stock imagery, prints and gift items

Road Trip

Didn’t even feel like getting out of bed this morning, much less going out and doing anything… But after wrestling with my mind I finally made it out the door ๐Ÿ™‚ Of course having doggies who need their daily activities attended to help a lot! Had to make a stop at Walmart to pick something up for a friend and after that we just kept on going… There is a secret place I like to take the doggies for their hike, no one is ever there and that suits me just fine

ThunderbirdFinally arrived at the destination and was getting the doggies ready to hop out of the back door of the camper shell when Son Boy decided I was moving too slow… Dang near knocked my teeth out with the camper door, while smashing my sunglasses into my face and then onto the rocks where they received a number of lovely scratches. A few exclamations later for which I have since made peace with God I noticed that a group of nicely dressed well to do people had pulled in near me and were looking at me with sad disapproval… Lol, but in my defense, Son Boy can be an asshole and though he looks quite sweet they were not there when he was dragging me face down for about 30 feet across the Walmart lawn, and I feel quite justified in calling him an asshole for today’s infraction!

We had a lovely hike to the summit of Little Grouse Mountain and the overlook onto the distant Collegiate Peaks and Sangre De Cristo Mountains. It was a beautiful cool cloudy day in the Pike National Forest and a magnificent day for a hike. On the way home I was tailgated by a Teller County Sheriff all the way to Florissant where I finally ditched him by pulling into the Thunderbird, a place I had always wanted to check out anyway. What a cool place it is! Sort of a biker bar in the middle of nowhere in the Pike National Forest, it is an amazing landmark and oasis that everyone should visit if possible! Well anyway, I also ran into a writer for the Ute Country News there and gave her my business card in case they might need my photography services. You never know what you might accomplish by just going out the door in the morning, a lesson I will have to keep in mind the next time I don’t feel like facing another day ๐Ÿ™‚

It had started raining while I was there and I didn’tย  get any good pictures, in fact it wasn’t a good day for pictures at all and I didn’t get any for my website either. Tonight it is still raining and I am just enjoying being inside enjoying some hot chocolate. It is becoming obvious that we have moved past the hottest part of the summer, the days are still warm, but you can really feel the Rocky Mountain chill in air on these nights lately!

 

Steve Krull is a prolific sports and nature photographer selling prints and stock images online as S.W. Krull Imaging at various sites and agencies. Click this link to view all the products and services offered by Steve Krull and S. W. Krull Imaging. Additional services include, wedding photography, portraiture and model portfolios, and event photography. Additional products include fine art stock imagery, prints and gift items